Sunday 30 August 2015

Brunch @ Federal Cafe, Northern Quarter

I've spoken about how much I love eating out before, but I think I've reached new grounds here. 
After visiting Federal Cafe on Friday morning for the first time with my team at work (nothing like avo and eggs to set you up for smashing out the last day of the week), I knew I'd be back soon. Sunday morning soon, it turned out.. 

Breakfast on Friday

When I arrived at 8am on Friday there were already a few tables occupied; two girl friends having an early catch up over French toast and tea, a guy busying himself on his laptop with a giant mug of coffee beside him, people popping in in suits, for their morning caffeine fix - there was a really good atmosphere.

Inside, it's actually smaller than I expected, but I think it offers a more intimate, homely vibe (and explains reports I've heard of queues forming out the door - FYI it's worth the wait..). 

I was immediately drawn to the 'Smashed Avo' on sourdough toast with poached eggs & streaky bacon, and a matcha latte to green things up a little. My team mate ordering food misheard me on the matcha front and so I also ended up with a Macchiato Espresso, which I'm certainly not complaining about. I think I'd actually really enjoy coffee tasting; this particular little bean was fruity with hints of dark chocolate, and I must admit I felt very knowledgeable reading off the taste card and preceding to mutter things like 'oh yes I can definitely get a feel for those deep berries..,' to myself. 


Most of us went for similar egg based dishes - there were a couple of egg Benedict's, a mushroom and egg affair (which I'd get to on Sunday...), a salmon bagel and the thickest wedge of banana bread and mascarpone, which sadly I didn't sample but smelt amazing.

I was seriously impressed with the generous portions; I find a lot of places nowadays can scrimp on things like the avocado - but this was hearty and decent. Speaking of the avocado, it was zesty and softened the crispy sourdough crusts just perfectly in my eyes. The eggs were bang on and the bacon was everything you'd imagine - salty and crunchy. It's making my mouth water thinking about it again!

I could've sat there for hours but we were served and out within 45 minutes (sadly), to head off to work.

Brunch on Sunday

On Sunday it was a slightly lazier affair, popping in around 11, and the place was steadily filling up.

It was busier but held that relaxed vibe - lots of people dining solo reading books, people coming in with their parents, as well as groups of friends. The staff were smiley and welcoming too, which is always a bonus!

This time, I'd spied mushrooms, so went for the Shrooms & Halloumi, and James did the same (I was hoping he'd pick the French Toast so I could sample but we're both massive savoury breakfast fans, one to try for next time definitely).

Well. It didn't disappoint. More of that sourdough and perfectly poached eggs (see picture below for obligatory yolk porn), but this time with slices of thick, squeaky halloumi, garlic and thyme roasted mushrooms and a spicy tomato relish. It was lush.

The relish made the dish for me. I love a tomato based sauce any day of the week so it was right up my street, and paired with the yolk it made a great base to mop up with bread.

Drinks wise, you must get the chai spiced latte. This probably sounds OTT but it was silky smooth to sip with a nice cinnamony kick, one of those things you don't want to end. James's massive cappucino in the red cup was also a winner.


I think you can tell I'm a fan. Would it be too much to go *again* this week to try their Brinner menu?

If you've been to Federal and think there's a dish I need to try, let me know and I'll gladly try it out!

Sunday 16 August 2015

Lunch @ Foundation Coffee, Northern Quarter

This afternoon I met up with three fellow foodies for lunch, a natter and an impromptu potter around the Makers Markets in Spinningfields. Pamela, Sophie, Vicki & I had been meaning to try out Rust and Stone, but sadly they aren't open on Sundays, so had to make do with Foundation Coffee instead - and I'm so glad we did; it's lush!

Definitely perfect if you're looking for a 'coffice' to work from during the week (or weekend), and it's so refreshing to see more eateries in Manchester catering for the health conscious. I love the look of the place; bright white tiles, big tables and low hanging lights.

The coffee menu is extensive, however after enjoying a huge mug of caffeine earlier in the morning, I opted for an almond milk matcha latte.

For food, I went for a mixture of two salads; the chickpea, cumin, cucumber, chilli and tomato & the bulgur wheat, fennel, red onion, orange and almond, teamed with a savoury mackerel and pumpkin seed muffin - which does sound odd I'll admit, but absolutely hit the spot and was a winner with the beetroot dip (beetroot, zaatar [middle eastern herbs, FYI, I had no idea], chickpeas & chilli). The carrot and star anise dip was beautiful in its own right, adding a sweet element to cut through the chilli.

We also did shots.

100% ginger shots. It was er, spicy to say the least! Warming to the back of your throat, and not a taste I'll forget in a hurry..!

There was a selection of cold salads, dips, tarts, raw fruit and nut balls, savoury muffins, and an impressive cake selection from the black cat eatery.

Oh my gosh the cake. Let me tell you about the cake.

I opted for the dark chocolate and almond ( it was so delicious, even the lovely bloke behind the counter said he wasn't into healthy eating and couldn't tell it was vegan and sugar free - winner!

Next time, I'm definitely going for a coffee, and another large slice of that cake...

A lovely lunch, enjoyed with three other lovely girls!

Who Doesn't Love Eating Out..?!


I absolutely love eating out; it’s hands up without a doubt one of my favourite pastimes ever.

There’s an old Italian phrase “buon cibo, buon vino, buoni amici” which roughly translates as ‘good food, good wine, good friends,’ and it’s a motto I’ve strived to live by (hard times). If I was a tattoo person, I’d get it inked on me (maybe). Apart from being stupidly simple, I think it captures the essence of what eating out is all about; enjoying the company of people you care about, and celebrating with food and drink.


Although we can’t always have our meals in the warm Mediterranean sunset, bathed in a twinkling glow from fairy lights in mason jars (as much as my Alfresco Pinterest board suggests I want to), eating out in the UK is something I can do pretty well too. Seven times ‘pretty well’, apparently, as that’s how many times I had the pleasure of eating out last week. Oops. 

It wasn't a 'normal' week; those particular seven days were a whirlwind of visiting friends in London, date nights, restaurant launches and catching up with friends…including brunch at Jackson &Rye (smoked salmon, avo & eggs & a white peach bellini), dinner at Double ‘00’ Zero – a really, really good new artisan pizza place in Chorlton, more dinner / different day at Busaba Eatthai, a hotel buffet breakfast (croissants for the win), tasty ramen and red wine at The Alchemist, and a tasting menu (copious amounts of flatbreads, pizza, pasta and a gorgeous hazelnut cheesecake) at the launch of the new Prezzo restaurant on Deansgate.

Delish selection of flatbreads at the Prezzo launch on Deansgate

Red wine & Ramen @ The Alchemist, Spinningfields

Although that’s not a normal week, I do eat out quite a bit, so I thought I’d share with you the four little things I usually do in restaurants to achieve that ‘balanced’ approach…

S.O.S –
Which stands for Sauce On the Side. I don’t know why restaurants insist on smothering eggs and bacon in hollandaise sauce. Yes, it’s quite nice, but Christ I can’t think of anything worse than my precious golden yolk being overshadowed by that buttery sauce.

I’m the same with buttered spinach, or anything else (like salad dressing) that sounds like it’s going to drown what's on my plate. You’re more likely to eat less of the stuff if you’re dipping in to it every now and then, and heck if you do eat it all at least you can choose which parts of your meal are covered in it!

Tap water –
Guzzle it. Drink a few glasses before the bread and olives arrive, and have another one for luck before you clink your wine glasses and cheers. Every time your wine glass is topped up, fill up your water glass. Keep hydrated.

Swap it –
If you’ve eaten out a fair few times over a short space of time and want to rein it in a little, I always find swapping stuff goes down well. Try a naked burger, where the bun is swapped for a green salad, change your chips for couscous, or swap out sweet chilli mayo and just ask for a tomato sauce. It’s the little things in life!

And finally…

Have what you WANT –

Seriously, there is nothing, nothing worse than wanting the pulled pork burger with thrice fried spicy battered fries and ordering the basa fillet with swiss chard and bulgur wheat. Even if that basa is the tenderest little fish you’ve ever had, it just won’t compare.

I almost always make a rule to go with my initial pick, my ‘gut’ instinct, as it’s usually what I want. You’re out to enjoy yourself, so don’t regret your choice. There is nothing unhealthy about balance and a Diavolo pizza won’t ruin your gym plan or make you pile on the pounds. Just don’t do it every night.

Anyway, I’m off – I need to get ready for a brunch date with friends at Foundation Coffee; buon cibo, buon vino, buoni amici indeed!

image creds:

Monday 10 August 2015

Cinnamon & Nutmeg Protein Loaf

I'm not going to lie to you, I find baking with protein hard. Does anyone else think that it can make your tray bakes / cakes / loaves and cookies dry and a bit 'claggy' sometimes?

I've been wanting to post a protein bake recipe for a few weeks but the last two rounds haven't been up to scratch (apart from when smeared in butter.. oops!), however, I think I'm on the right tracks with this one though as I've added Greek yoghurt to make it more moist, and it definitely makes it taste a lot less dry, which is great!

The nutmeg, cinnamon and sweetness from the dates is 10 on 10 for flavour, and the size of these slices means you don't need too much before feeling satisfied.

This recipe makes 12 chunky loaf squares:

  • 100g ground almonds
  • 100g Impact whey vanilla (I'm using MyProtein)
  • 60g chopped dates
  • 30g coconut sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tea spoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
  • 100g Total Greek yoghurt

Simply; combine all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl, pour into a loaf tin and pop in the oven.

I'd initially set a timer for 15 minutes but it turns out this chunky loafer needed about 25 minutes, so keep your eye on it - if it looks soggy after fifteen minutes set another timer for 5 minutes and check it again, and so on.

They make a really good snack if you're craving something sweet in the evening or, (if you're anything like me) when you get home in the evening and *couldn't possibly* wait fifteen minutes for your tea to cook.

Macro wise, per loaf chunk:

131 calories
11g protein
8.2g carbs
5.8g fat

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